Collecting and presenting their king with cut reeds in homage to their culture is just 1 aspect of the Zulu Reed Dance. The entire event takes place over several days and involves singing, dancing and other activities designed to help young Zulu girls prepare for womanhood.

Did you know?

In Zulu mythology, if a young woman who is not a virgin takes part in the reed-dance ceremony, her reed will break.

Joining the friends and relatives of thousands of young girls attired in traditional Zulu dress to watch them sing, dance and celebrate their culture, is a powerful and moving experience.

This annual ceremony, known as the Mkhosi woMhlanga or the Zulu Reed Dance, is a centuries-old tradition. It takes place in September, right at the start of spring, at the eNyokeni Palace in Nongoma, Zululand.

Girls from all over the country arrive in the area for the traditional Zulu festivities. These are spread over several days and represent an important rite of passage for the young women.

As well as joining in traditional singing and dancing, the Reed Dance is an opportunity to school the girls in their culture. Older Zulu women teach the young girls, who have to be virgins in order to participate, about how they should act as grown women. As part of this, they promote celibacy until marriage and teach the girls respect for their bodies.

While the lessons and ceremonies are steeped in Zulu tradition and culture, this mass gathering of young people is also an opportunity to discuss contemporary social issues that affect them, such as HIV and teen pregnancies.

For visitors, the highlight of the event is the reed-giving ceremony. Led by Zulu princesses, the young women make a sea of colour in intricately beaded outfits as they each collect a cut reed and present it to the king. Zulu men also participate in this part of the ceremony, singing and mock fighting.

According to Zulu tradition, the original ancestor emerged from a reed bed, so the laying the reeds at the king’s feet symbolises respect for the Zulu culture. The reeds are also used to build traditional Zulu huts and to craft the mats and baskets for which the Zulu people are famous.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)31 366 7500

How to get here

While visitors to the ceremony are welcome, it’s wise to arrange a guide who can tell you more about the ceremony and help you to understand cultural sensitivities and taboos.

Around the area

Zululand is home to world-famous national parks and private nature reserves. The area is also particularly rich in historic, cultural and coastal attractions.

Tours to do

The Zululand Heritage Route follows one of the oldest trade routes through Zululand. It begins at the Dokodweni Toll Plaza and ends 250km further north at the town of Phongolo.

Best buys

Zulu beadwork is renowned for its beauty and symbolism and their basketry is also particularly fine.

Related articles